How to Play with Your Baby: Age-Appropriate Activities for the First Year & What To Expect
Do you sometimes feel like you want to play with your babies but not quite sure how? Or maybe you are overwhelmed with the different activity classes out there and not sure how to choose or when to start?
Fear not – we have teamed up with the experts at Pebble to bring you a comprehensive baby activity guide that will show you the key milestones, offer tips on how to choose the right activities for your baby’s age and development, AND where to find the appropriate classes!
At this age, babies are developing their motor skills and their senses. They love to be held and cuddled, and they enjoy looking at faces and bright colors. Some fun activities for babies in this age group include tummy time, singing songs, and reading stories.
Your newborn’s movements will probably be jerky and please remember to support their neck when you are holding them. It’s important to do tummy time and you can start from birth (keep them very brief at the beginning)! By around 2 months, you will feel their necks to be much stronger and by 3 months, most babies will be able to lift their head and chest, supported by the elbows during tummy time.
New-born babies will rely on crying to communicate to you about their needs. At first it may be hard to dissect but gradually you will get a good sense of what their needs may be. Some of us at V&Me have found this article showing the different sounds and cries helpful. Can you hear the “n” in the hungry cry?
Hearing and vision
In the first few months babies pay most attention to faces. Over time, they will gain ability to follow an object that moves in front of their eyes. From around 2 months, they will start to smile back at you – so make sure you are camera ready for those cute first smiles!
Skin to skin contact benefits both mothers and babies – so take the time to have loads of cuddles in those early days! Baby massages are great for this age as it’s all about the power of touch.
Talking to your baby is crucial for their learning and it starts now. It doesn’t need to be complicated or over engineered, just talk to your baby as you go about your days even if it’s just you two in the room! Make eye contact when they look at you, read them stories, sing – all these activities will lay great foundations for their language development. Young children whose parents read them just one book a day enter school with about 290,000 more words than kids who were never read to!
Babies in this age group are starting to become more mobile. They can roll over, sit up, and even start to crawl. They are also starting to explore their environment with their hands and mouths. Some fun activities for babies in this age group include playing with toys, going on walks, and exploring the outdoors.
Now your baby is more alert and mobile, your days will be filled with exciting new adventures!
So what can you expect at this age?
You will see your baby move and kick a little more purposefully and they may start to roll over! Most babies can raise their heads during tummy time by now. Around 6 months, many babies will start to be able to sit upright – a key sign that they may be ready for solids.
In terms of the finer motor skills, they will probably start to grab your fingers or a soft object. Don’t worry too much if they are putting everything they can grab in their mouth – that is their way of exploring the new world. Just be careful there are no small, round objects in their reach which can become a choking hazard.
Babies at this age often start to babble chains for letters such as “ba” or “dee”. Some babies may start to recognise their name and may be able to tell emotions by your tone of voice!
Hearing and vision
Your baby’s world is starting to get more colourful as they start to tell the difference between red, blue and yellow. They will also get better at tracking movements so watch their head move as you roll a ball across the floor!
Reading remains important and as they grow older, you can describe what’s happening on each page of the book and point to name common objects.
Peekabo is a favourite game here at V&Me, and there are actually scientific reasons behind this too! It’s a great way to have fun with them whilst helping them understand object permanence: the fact that you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there anymore!
You can find many sensory classes and parent & baby groups which will help engage your babies’ different senses including touch, smell, taste, sight and sound.
At around 6 months, your baby will probably be ready for solids. Start with green, bitter vegetables and focus on high iron meals in the initial months. Read more expert tips on weaning here.
Babies in this age group are starting to develop their cognitive skills. They are learning about cause and effect, and they are starting to understand the concept of object permanence. They are also starting to communicate more with their parents and caregivers. Some fun activities for babies in this age group include playing peek-a-boo, stacking blocks, and naming objects.
Most babies can sit on their own with little support by now, some can pull themselves up to a standing position – and soon you may see their first steps holding the edge of a couch or low table!
Most babies can move objects from one hand to another or directly to their mouth – which is an essential skill for self-feeding!
They are now communicating with you through sounds, gestures and facial expressions (alongside cry of course). You may even hear the occasional “mama” or “dada”!
Vision, hearing and social awareness
Many babies at this age start to become wary of strangers and may have separation anxiety – it’s all totally normal and in fact it’s usually a sign of secure attachment! Don’t feel guilty if you have to leave them with someone else so that you can go to work or maybe you just need a moment to yourself – instead you can focus on helping them understand that they will be OK when you leave and you will be back. For instance, leave them somewhere safe and step out of sight for a few seconds then come back; then gradually work up to leaving them in someone else’s (that you know and trust) care for a few minutes.
This is a good time to start teaching your baby cause and effect. Show them how to switch things on and off, push the button on a toy to start the music… Slowly, you will see their confidence grow as they start to make things happen themselves!
Playgroups and open-play sessions are great for babies this age as they usually involve music, singing, dancing and other high energy activities. You can find playgroups near you on Pebble here.
As you are increasingly out and about, you may have less time cooking at home. Read this blog before you reach for those pouches!
Babies in this age group are starting to become more independent. They can walk, run, and climb. They are also starting to learn how to talk. Some fun activities for babies in this age group include playing with water, going to the park, and singing songs.
You will probably find your baby creeping, crawling and walking while holding onto furniture. Many will take their first step without support by 12 months.
As their hand-eye coordination improve, they will be more accurate in picking things up and feeding themselves. You can help their pincer grip (the ability to pick up something with their thumb and index finger) by giving them tissues to take out from a tissue box (yes! It actually has benefits!)
Most babies will now respond to simple verbal requests. Their “vocabulary” may also start to expand as they imitate new sounds – you may even hear certain exclamations such as “uh oh”!
Vision, hearing and social awareness
Their understanding of object permanence will have improved and can now easily find hidden objects. It is likely that they now understand that you still exist when you leave the room, but probably will still cry. You can continue taking small steps to help them with separation anxiety – as they start to understand more, you can talk to them about what’s happening, where you are going and when you will be with them again.
Reading and language continue to be important but they may benefit from learning to sign so that they can communicate with you before they are even verbal! You can find classes for sign language near you on Pebble
You can also join a messy play class or playgroup on Pebble or create your own messy play activity at home using different materials and food. Let your baby explore the different tastes, textures, and colours of the world around them.
You may be thinking about going back to work (if you’ve not already) and need to figure out how to feed your little ones while you are away. Read about the things people don’t tell you about baby nutrition here and let us take care of it for you!